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The Editors

Don't Pay Terrorist Ransoms

Every dollar paid to save a hostage's life potentially goes to capture or kill another.
James Foley, caught in a vicious circle.
James Foley, caught in a vicious circle.

The public slaughter of American journalist James Foley by Islamic State has raised wrenching questions about the U.S. government's long-standing policy of refusing to pay ransoms to terrorists. Yet what really deserves scrutiny is the willingness of European governments to meet such demands.

It's no exaggeration to say that the millions of dollars in ransoms paid to Islamic State effectively subsidized Foley's kidnapping and execution, not to mention the terrorists' swath of death and destruction across Syria and Iraq. If the U.S. and its allies are to defeat Islamic State and other terrorist groups, they will have to reconcile their approaches to the metastasizing threat of kidnapping for ransom.